‘It’s the blind leading the almost blind…’

Back in early May this year I was contacted by a TV Production company who were putting together a documentary on blindness and creativity for BBC Arts. They had come across my art through my Instagram feed and were impressed enough to want me onboard.

After many emails and ZOOM chats a filming date was set. A few ZOOM interviews with Director Jamie O’Leary and comedian Jamie MacDonald took place and after a few weeks I spent a fantastic Friday with Film Maker Miranda Stern who interviewed me and recorded me working on 3 digital montage images that I had been commissioned to construct for the documentary and accompanying exhibition.

It’s now finally here and due for transmission on BBC2.
BBC 2 10pm Sunday 1st Aug
BBC 2 11.15pm Thursday 5th Aug

Here’s the official PR from the production

Blind Ambition makers Jamie O’Leary and Jamie MacDonald

Jamie O’Leary and Jamie MacDonald. Copyright Ian Treherne.

Television director Jamie O’Leary has really bad eyesight. The average person with myopia has a prescription of -2.5 whereas Jamie’s is -32, and now he’s facing eye surgery that could potentially lead to sight loss. 

Over the past 20 years in the industry Jamie has produced ground-breaking programmes that take a fresh look at disability - Seven DwarvesI’m Spazticus and Teenage Dwarf (Channel 4), as well as making popular travelogue shows with some of the UK’s funniest talent including Karl Pilkington, Romesh Ranganathan and Katherine Ryan.

At this pivotal point in his life, O’Leary wants to explore how creative people cope with losing their sight and how blind artists achieve their creative vision of a world they see from a unique perspective. He’s hooked up with blind observational comedian, Jamie MacDonald to bring light and shade to facing blindness. Together they’re on a “blind leading the nearly blind” mission to uncover and collaborate with the best blind creative talent out there.  

Under the control of the programme producer, the two Jamies embark on a road trip, meeting blind creatives and trying on their worlds. They begin with Ian Treherne, a professional photographer specialising in arresting portraits and compelling landscapes. Ian is 95% blind and has Retinitis Pigmentosa Type 2 which means he has central vision but no peripheral. He takes the two along the Southend seafront so they can have a go at photography. Ian then takes some publicity stills of the pair for the programme, but they become suspicious of the producer’s motives as they’re ask to wear increasingly ridiculous costumes.

Next O’Leary and MacDonald meet a young rapper from Reading, twenty-seven year old Stoner. He contracted meningitis aged 11 and within 5 years became completely blind. His music has been lauded by established stars on the rap scene including Tinie Tempah, and Giggs who he has supported on tour.

MacDonald and O’Leary travel north to Derby and meet blind woodturner and artist Chris Fisher, the UK’s only completely blind professional woodturner. In 2008 he contracted toxoplasmosis and within four weeks had completely lost his sight. Chris produces textured sensory and tactile pieces of art. He encourages the duo ‘to have a go’ which leads to O’Leary having quite an emotional turn. 

In London the pair meet Lizzie Capener who has been performing opera nationally and internationally for the past 20 years. Diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative eye condition, this new mum navigates the world with her guide dog Ziggy. But when the programme producer insists that this tone-deaf twosome learn to sing opera, the pair revolt. O’Leary wrestles back control of the programme and begins a series of surprising collaborations with these and other artists, including blind figurative painter John Bramblitt and visually impaired digital artist Robert H King to create an exhibition of extraordinary blind ambition. 

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published